The wheels came off for the Las Vegas Raiders a while ago but it seems like things just keep getting worse. They’ve been without a number of key players almost every week, and now they’ve been losing coaches the last couple of weeks. Last week, they were without offensive coordinator Greg Olson due to COVID-19 reasons. This past week, they were without defensive backs coach Jim O’Neil.
According to Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Raiders had to get creative with how they filled the void at coach:
In addition, the Raiders’ coaching ranks were so depleted with the loss of defensive backs coach Jim O’Neil and assistant Taver Johnson — both of whom missed the game because of COVID-19 — that general manager Mike Mayock, a former college and NFL defensive back, was in the coaching booth lending a hand. Backup safety Jeff Heath, who is on the injured reserve list, was also pressed into coaching duty.
Mayock and Heath have exactly zero professional or college experience as coaches. The fact that the Raiders were missing their defensive backs coaches might have played a role in the blown coverage that helped get the Miami Dolphins in field goal range on Saturday. It’s admirable that Mayock and Heath would step out of their comfort zones to help the team but it’s definitely not an ideal situation.
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Raiders Defense Falters Again
For the first half of the game against the Dolphins, it looked like the Raiders had finally turned their defense around. They were playing pretty cleanly, getting after the quarterback and slowed down the run. Rod Marinelli was making a case that he should get the defensive coordinator job for next season.
Seeing how the second half played out, the defense might have only looked good because Tua Tagovailoa is still very much a work in progress as Ryan Fitzpatrick lit up the Raiders. He completed nine of 13 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown. The defense definitely took a step back when he entered the game. There’s no doubt that they played better than they have in recent works but there is still work to be done.
What Next for the Raiders?
No matter what happens now, the Raiders are out of the playoffs. Even if they had beaten the Dolphins, they would’ve been eliminated. While the offense does have issues that need to be fixed, the defense needs a major facelift this offseason.
The most important thing the Raiders have to do is find the right defensive coordinator. Marinelli hasn’t gotten a lot of love from fans but he’s had success in the past. That said, he’ll be 72 when next season starts. There’s been chatter about Wade Phillips taking the job but he’ll be 74 next season. The Raiders would be wise to find somebody a little younger.
If the team was auditioning defensive coordinator candidates, Atlanta Falcons interim head coach Raheem Morris would have nailed it. Not only did his defense hold the Raiders to six points, they just held the Kansas City Chiefs to 17 points. They could’ve won that game had it not been for a botched field goal. In Patrick Mahomes’ career, there’s only been one other time when his offense was held to 17 points or fewer. If Morris doesn’t get a head coaching job, the Raiders need to pay him whatever it takes to join the staff. He’s worked with Gruden before, he’s young and he’s clearly an excellent defensive mind.